Joe's Track Experience
In 2013 I went up to the Valley Prefered Velodrome to attend their Try The Track event. Below are my thoughts after riding on the velodrome for the first time. I also participated in the 8 week Air Products adult basic course and added my post session thoughts. I hope you enjoy my experince of riding the velodrome as much as I did.
One Gear, One Cause... No CoastingI am riding in the City to Shore Bike MS event to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society on September 27th 2014. This year I will be giving myself an additional challenge by riding a fixed gear bike the full 150 miles. Please help me reach my fundraising goal with a dontation. Thank you.
Try the Track
- Just wiping the smile off my face
Adult Basic Class Session #1
- Awesome night at the track
- I missed and was out
- I qualified
- Standing Start & Keirin
- Point-a-Lap and Miss and Out
- Miss and Out then Win and Out
- Scratch, 200m, Miss and out, Snowball and Scratch again... Whew!
- Last dance, no partners
Adult Basic Class Session #2
- My Second First Time
- Still No Racing :-(
- Italian Pursuit
- Unknown Distance
- Videos Start Here
- Big Improvement
- Death March
- Cone Sprints
- Team Pursuit
Racing Under the Lights
- The Big Race
Just Wiping the Smile Off My Face
For those following along at home, the Lehigh Valley Velodrome has several "try the track" days where you can have a track bike and several hours of training on the track. I found out about the last one scheduled for last fall just as it filled up. I managed to persuade the organizer to let me in if I brought my own track bike. Alas the two people that I thought had them were not available.
This spring I signed up for the first track session on the day they opened registration! After waiting 6 weeks I arrive at the track to find it shrouded in mist. Not raining, but just heavy enough to make the track wet. We get fitted for bikes and get onto the track, but they only let us ride on the apron. No going onto the track :-(
We get a rain check, but the experience like some of my high school dates. I got to second base, but I wanted more. I had to wait 5 weeks. The first Sunday of summer was hot and sunny and I got to finally ride the track.
Last time the class consisted of a bunch of 30+ local riders that were road riders. This time was a bit different as the co-ed cycling team from MIT also showed up to try the track. Oh to be 18 again!
We all get fitted for bikes and head down to the track. They wasted no time getting us on the bikes and warming up on the apron. With a little coaching the instructor pulled her bike up on the banking and we were riding the concrete crater. I was doing it :-)
The banking is steep and I felt very tentative when I tried it a couple weeks ago in my road bike. The steel frame of the track bike filtered out the roughness of the track compared to my usual aluminum frame. The track bike was also fitted with wider tires with soft compound and a round profile. They felt very sure footed.
After droning around on the bottom the group rolled up to the top of the banking. In the corners you are 20+ feet in the air and you could see outside the bowl. It was like flying. After the warm up we came in and got some "ground school" on proper safety and etiquette.
We broke into groups based on ability and confidence: A, B and, C. I chose "B". I was a little put off by the MIT team and I figure discretion was the better part of valor.
We go back out on the track and play follow the leader. Going up and down the track was an eye opener. The bike would really slow down when going up the track, and would speed up when you went down. Simple physics, but it really came home when you feel the power going in and out of your legs. The fixed gear makes going down the hill exciting as you have to slow the bike down with your legs. Hitting the guy in front of you is frowned upon.
The next drill was very interesting, it was called "island hopping". We split into two groups and positioned ourselves 1/2 track apart riding 1/3 the way up the banking. The leader would blow a whistle and the rider behind the leader would drop down and sprint up to the next group. You then cycle up to the front of that group and sprint to the next group. I had a blast doing this. I was so fast that I would catch the guy in front of me during his sprint. One time I came up on him so fast I almost bumped him. Not cool.
We took a break and went out to do more island hopping. I was starting to understand that Island Hopping bicycle was code for wind sprints. Still I was having fun. The coaches were all yelling at us and encouraging speed. I was feeling good so I was wondering how the A group would be. After the B group finished I hopped right in with the A group.
I learned this was indeed the deep end of the pool. I was keeping up with the group, but I was getting gassed. Luckily the drills ended before my legs did. I was excited, but ready for a break.
The coaches (one of which was olympic gold medalist Marty Northstine) http://www.thevelodrome.com/featured/a-decade-later-marty-nothstein/ gave a talk about racing and then we were set to go out for our own 5- lap (~1mile) scratch races. I decided to stick with the A group.
The A women went first and they put on a great show. The finish came down to the wire. Next was the A guys from the MIT team. They flew around the track. Finally it was the more, er, experienced A group riders.
The race starts by everyone hanging on the track wall at the top of the track. On command everyone dropps off the wall and groups up. Being in a pack of 10 bikes is exhilarating and terrifying. I was just focused on finding a place and keeping up with the group. In the center of turn 4 there is a mark and the starter blows a whistle if the group is organized and we go racing. And thats what we did.
The group picked up speed and we were flying as a loose pack. It is something being up in the side of a big hill with other bikes. I was moving around in the group and staying with everyone for about 3 laps. Then they all pulled away from me. I tried to pull ahead to the group, but when I called down to the engine room I got no response. I finished about 100 yards from the pack. Two points: I was in a bicycle race and I finished.
We went out again for a 3 lap race (exactly 1 km). This would be our last race. I figured I would just stay up with the group this time. I stayed real close this time and tried to keep right on the other guy's wheel. Again, I was helpless as the pack pulled away on the second lap. Oh well. I did not belong with the A group.
After the class was over I did a few more laps following a coach as he warmed up for a youth development program. I figured my legs had no more sprints in them, but lots more laps. I rode about 10 laps when one of the ~9 year old kids showed up. The dude was about 4'0"and went over the top of me like it was nothing and fell in behind the coach. You could see he had done this before as he was relaxed and smooth. I had a lot to learn. It was time for me to exit the track so they could get on with the program.
Overall it was a blast. There was nothing like riding a race bike on a race track. I can't wait to do it again. Good thing I won't have to wait this time as I am signed up to ride in the 4-week adult basic class, which starts on Wednesday.
Waiting to drop off the wall to race The start of the scratch race
Awesome Night at the Track
I liked the Try-the-track event on Sunday so much that I signed up for an 8 session adult basic track course at the velodrome. http://www.thevelodrome.com/community-programs/air-products/course- descriptions/ The format is basically the same, but the lesson is only 1.5 hours in the evening.
As the group gathered before the lesson we checked each other out and made introductions. It was an eclectic group. There was one mom who decided to give it a try since her son was having a good time in the youth classes. There were also some guys were like me, road riders giving it a go. Some of these riders come back every year and had their own track bikes.
They let the returning riders out on the track to warm up right after some brief opening comments. I declared myself competent and hopped right out there. This allowed them to work with the others in the class that had not been on the track bikes to help them get acclimated with the ins and outs of a fixed gear and getting on and off the track (only on the back straight).
I warmed up about 1/2 a track away from the rest of the group who were doing a pace line. This is where the bikes stay close together and the leader peals off every 1/2 lap and goes to the back then the next guy in line breaks the wind for the group. The warm up was fairly long but I was able to maintain their pace until the coach called us in.
The coach went over the lines on the track again and track etiquette. I learned nothing new, so I guess I was listening the first time. He then described the next drill which was the sprint. We would ride in a group and take a few laps up at the rail. Then in turn 2 at the Deer Park sign we would swoop down to intercept the sprint line around the entrance of turn 3. We would then maintain the sprint through the turn to the finish line. After the line we would keep pedaling and then head up the track to slow down.
My first try was a mess. I was third in a group of three and I did not realize that this was a group exercise and I only expected the leader to adopt the sprint. I was surprised to see the #2 guy follow in the sprint. I hesitated a bit and headed down the track. I picked up speed, but there was no way I could catch the other two. Now I can see how people get dropped for the sprint.
For the second go I was the #2 in the line and I did better. I was able to stay on the wheel of the leader. This felt better. On the last time I was the leader I got a nice jump and made a smooth line across the back straight into the bottom of turn 3. I picked up a bunch of speed and really hammered across the finish line. Then I looked over my shoulder to make sure it was clear and I flew up the track to bleed off speed. This felt good.
After the sprints we came in and talked a bit while the other group went out. Class was almost over and the coach asked if we wanted more drills or a race. After Sunday's embarrassment I wanted drills, but the rest of the group wanted to race. It was a 7 lap scratch race. I was not as tired as I was on Sunday, so maybe this will end better.
I went up to the wall to stage with the group of about 8 riders. The coach signalled us to push off and we took an easy pace while we formed up. The procedure is to stay in a group for the "neutral lap" and not to race until told to start. (They will hold the start if the group is not tight, or if someone has a mechanical issue.) We were in a tight group at the 100m mark and they blew the whistle to signal the start.
I was on the outside at the start and I could not find a spot in line to drop into. I held this for a lap or two, but I was going farther than the people on the inside and I was breaking my own wind. I could not keep this up. I fell back and watched the others pass me. I was thinking it was going to be a repeat of Sunday.
A little gap opens up below and I slowly ease into the little space to become third to last. I was keeping up and I felt I could maintain this pace. I take a couple of laps like this and the guy in front of me started to loose the pace. I decided I had to act. I checked for traffic and pulled up the track while pedalling harder. I built momentum and started to pass. Soon I was actually passing in a competitive situation! I held the high line until I was clear then I dropped down to the sprinter lane. The drop in elevation gave me enough poop to be able to catch the group that was pulling away. That felt good :-)
On the last lap I felt like I had something and I poured on the coal (old guys still use coal) and pulled up track on the back straight. I was able to gain on the guy under me and then pull ahead before the line due to the way the track drops in the straights. I was not last, and I passed two people!
When the second group went up to race there was only 3 riders that felt confident enough to race. The coach asked if any of us wanted to join this race. I ran back up to the wall to have another go. I lined up 3rd behind two ladies and 3-4 of the guys from the other race also joined the group.
When we left the wall I was able to get to the bottom of the track and maintain 3rd to the start. After the whistle blew I realized the leader was pulling away in turn 1. I made a quick traffic check and pulled up to pass and got back on the wheel of the leader well before turn 3. I stayed in 2nd for the next lap and I felt very good. I had a plan to try a last lap sprint on the back straight. However, heading into turn 1 I felt the #3 rider coming up behind. A quick look confirmed my suspicion. It was now or never, so I popped out to the saddle the started hammering.
I was able to accelerate and pull up the track on the exit of turn 2 in front of the #3 guy. Now it was all on me. I stayed high and passed for the lead going into turn 3. I stayed high to use the other rider as a pick, forcing the other rider to have to ride a longer distance if they were going to pass. I felt the boost as the track flattened out for the straight and I moved down to the sprinter's lane and kept hammering to the finish. I looked back and saw that I had pulled away from the challenger!
I took a cool down lap and pulled off the track. The coach said that we could ride for another 10 minutes until the next class had the track. I went back out just to feel the feeling again. I did not suck. I rode around the top of the track just to be on top of the world for a few minutes.
It was a much better outcome than last time. I celebrated with a Yacco's hot dog and a coupe of perogies, which brought back fond memories of my college days in Bethlehem. What a night.
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I missed and was out
The rain that had plagued the area during the day held off for my 6:00-7:30 adult basic racing course at the Velodrome. I was excited that I would get out on the track again.
We started off with a paceline after warm ups. For this drill about 7 of us adopted a moderate-fast pace and we each took 1 lap at the front of the line. When the lap was over the leader would pull up the banking in turn 1 and join in the back of the line to wait for his turn. I learned a couple of things. First, drafting is real. I had some time to play with it and I could feel that I needed less effort to maintain speed. The other thing is that pulling out of the line was fun.
You just make a right turn and shoot up the track loosing speed and the pack will pass under you. Then you head down and the hill heps you accelerate to meet the pack. Very cool.
We did a few more sprints from the boards where we ride around the track at the boards until we got to the exit of turn 2 then you sprint to the finish line. The goal is to use the elevation change of the track to accelerate to the maximum when you enter turn 3. This is not very hard as you get a lap to recover. I did manage to touch the boards with my hand while I was on the top. Something I had dared myself to do.
The next drill was whistle sprints. We all rode around the track above the blue stayers line and the coach would blow a whistle. Then we would drop down and sprint until we heard 2 whistles. This was fun, but tiring as you were sprinting all the time. It was fun when I caught the person in front and made a pass.
The next activity was a 4 lap scratch race. This is a simple race to the finish. I started 2nd behind the leader who was not that strong. I am not too sure what he was thinking but he held the lead while slowly picking up the pace. I just hung back and rested in his draft for the first 3 laps. I was planning on pulling out on the back straight, but someone started to make their move in turn 1.
I accelerated to close the gap then popped up and drove past the leader and slowly pulled into the sprinters lane as I entered turn 3. My legs felt good and I was still accelerating strongly. I kept my head down and kept pouring on the power. I was going very fast when I entered turn 4 and started to feel a wobble.
I had tensed up and I felt a tank slapper coming on (sans the tank). I did my best to relax my grip and put my head up. This helped a lot and I was fairly smooth when I crossed the scratch line (aka the finish line).
The last race was the miss and out. This is a fun race to watch where the group of riders goes around and the las one over the finish line has to drop out of the race. The field is reduced by one each lap until there are three left in the race. Then it is a sprint to the finish. This is harder then it sounds as the traffic prevents you from accelerating at the end. I missed when there were about 5 left :-( Still it was a lot of fun. I need a better strategy for the next session as I had a lot of leg left.
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I am continuing to have fun at my adult basic racing class at the velodrome. One of the girls in the class came with her new track bike that she bought on a whim at some Lancaster bicycle shop. It was a nice Raleigh starter track bike with nice wheels and carbon cranks. We counted the gear teeth and it was 48/16. This is good to know as this works out to a 79 inch gear. On my road bike I would use my 53/18 (77 inch) or 53/17 (82 inch) gears to simulate the track gearing.
We started with the usual pace line as a warm up. We ride around just above the blue stayer's line which is 1/3 the way up the track. I am trying to be tight and efficient. This definitely takes some technique. The line on the track goes up and down in elevation due to the twist of the track. One has to adjust their effort to accommodate this elevation change. It is compounded by the group members who may not be staying close and anticipating the little ups and down.
When it comes for my time to lead I work on keeping a constant speed and holding the proper line. At the end of my turn at the front, I delay my entrance to turn 1 and move up the track to change speed w/o changing effort. As the pack passes I time my decent to catch the end. When done right it is very cool.
We then did the whistle sprints from the blue line. These were fun but I must have been off as I did not catch people this time. Perhaps the others were more on their game.
After a drink we broke into two groups of 6 and did the island hopping exercise. This is where the groups hold a constant pace at the blue line and when the coach blows the whistle the leader of each group drops down into a sprint and catches up to the next group. These are a lot of work. It turned into a whole lot of work when the groups merged due to inattention :-/
The last exercise was the flying 200m qualifier. This is the same test that the professionals use to set the race order. You start from a hold on the back straight then head up onto the track and take a full lap and a half to come up to speed. In the beginning of the back straight is the 200m timing mark that starts the time. Your time ends at the scratch (finish) line. You slow down and exit on the back straight. It is about 2 1/2 laps of riding.
I start from a hold which is quite a first time experience. In the middle of the cool down track you hop on the bike and clip in while the coach holds the bike. When your time comes he gives you a huge push and you ride up onto the steep banking in the turn. This feel very cool as the bike pedals start moving and you get right up to riding speed, bypassing the wobble stage of starting out. then reality hits as you have to hump up the wall.
Once you are on the track it feels like you are on the interstate as it seems very big (I-80 size) when it is just you and there are no worries about traffic. I took the first 1/2 of the lap easy and just moved my way up the to the top of the track. Then I started to add the coal between turns 3 and 4. When I entered turn 1 I was close to 100% effort and accelerating up the hill to stay at the top of the track.
At the "Bike Expo" sign exiting turn 2 I break away from the wall and head straight toward the pole line at the bottom of turn 3 while giving it all I got. I am really hauling when I make the turn. I am still too tight as I can't stay smooth in the turn. I wobble out of the for a bit but stay on the gas. When I leave turn 4 I focus on the scratch line which looks like it is in Ohio. I keep the speed up and the coaches cheer me on as I cross the line.
When I return to the wall I learn my time was 15.45 seconds. The coaches say this is very good. I hear the times for the others and there was only one in the 14 s range. Many were in the 16-17 range. the track record is 10.32!
Calculating my speed works out to 46.6 kph or 28.96 mph. That is faster than I can go on the level on my road bike so I feel very good. Next time I will see if I can top 30.
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Standing Start & Keirin
Just when I thought I had learned most of the bicycle racing skills they throw a couple more on us. Tonight it was the standing start and the Keirin
We started out with about 20 laps in a paceline to warm up. I am starting to feel better in the paceline. When I am in the middle I focus on being smooth and maintaining about 1/2 a wheel distance to the person in front. In my mind I keep thinking "this is supposed to be resting?" then I try and relax and position myself in the draft. When it is my turn to pull, I kick it up 1/2 notch and focus on looking way down the track and being very smooth and consistent. When my turn ends I give a few hard strokes and head straight in turn 1 to rise up just above the blue line. Then I try and blend back into the back of the group. This is difficult as they get spread out and some people's idea of a straight line is a bit non-linear.
Next we did warm up sprints from the boards. That went terrible. On the first sprint I missed the jump and everyone pulled away. Then once I got to speed my seat slipped in the frame and went down a millimeter on every stroke. I pulled off and waited for the mechanic to get a wrench from the shop. After my seat post was tight I only had one more try at the sprint. This one was fair at best. Oh well.
The next skill was the standing start. This is the way they start the standing 1km and several other races. For this exercise someone holds you and you simply ride away when they say go. Sounds simple, but requires strength and attention to technique.
First you get set on the bike with the pedals at 2:00 and 8:00 and you sit in the seat with your hands on the drops (racing position of the handle bars). The coach counts down and when he hits 2 you come out of the saddle. On 1 you push your hips back and on "go" you move your hips forward, look up, hold your arms straight and mash down on the pedals.
It was easy when the coach explained it and it looked easy when the other coach demonstrated it. The coach just stood up and mashed down on the pedals and went off straight as an arrow. You could see he was giving a weight lifter's effort, but the bicycle was smooth as silk under him. The first rider that tried it looked like an albatross taking off with a full belly. His arms were flapping and the bike wobbling.
When my turn came I was way nervous. Being held on the track, especially on the banking is a bit weird. We were told to sprint for about 80m. The coach counted down to 2 and I did something with my hips, but I doubt it was the right thing. I think I had my head down and arms bent and for the first 40m I was not moving at all. The second 1/2 went better, but that was more like riding. At 80m I was riding "normal" and it that was that. For the second try I focused on keeping my arms stiff and that worked better but I know I would need more practice to be remotely proficient.
Perhaps I can figure a way to practice this on my commute.
The next event was the Keirin which is a 6-lap race where you are paced with a motorcycle for 4 laps then the motorcycle pulls off and you race the last 2 laps. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keirin The motorcycle is typically going 30 mph when they pull off. We did it with one of the coaches playing the role of the motorcycle. This is one of the more physical races as you must keep up with the bike and the pros do a lot of NASCAR style bumping to get the position they want in line.
On our first try I was #2 rider behind the coach (3rd in line) which is the most favored spot. This was quite the experience compared to our typical scratch races. We normally start off kinda slow, this time the coach jumped up to speed, then accelerated. After 4 laps I was fairly played when the coach pulled off and we had to go race! Luckily the leader slowed down and bit and I was not dropped, but others started passing. I grabbed the back of the line and used them to pull me ahead. On the back straight I felt like I had something to give so I pulled up and started to pass.
I was able to pass one group and I set my sights on the leaders. I was able to gain on them and use the banking to accelerate. I missed taking 3rd place by inches at the line. I was fairly happy with this result.
The coach explained they he was going 26.5 mph when he let us go. That is quite fast for a warm up! I was surprised when they let us do a second keirin. I did about the same in this one but my competitors had less gas and I could pass them as they dropped back. I think I finished 4th.
The last event was a 6-lap scratch race. We started off slow and I was 3rd in line. On the second lap I found myself in the lead, which was not a cool spot. I was boxed in a bit so sprinted ahead so I could pull up the track and drop to the back of the line. I knew this was a bad place to be at the end of the race, but for now I had the others cutting the wind. I felt like I could keep up from this position.
At this point I think it is important to mention big Al. Most of in our class are about my age, committed road riders who want to give track riding a try. Big Al is 35 and 6'4" with 4'6" being leg. He did some road racing in college and after college. His time in the flying 200m was in the 14s range. Big Al is by far the fastest dude in the class.
From the back I could see everyone. When the two back riders started to fall back off the pace. I kicked it up a notch and passed these guys so I could hang with the leaders. The next few laps flew by and I was watching the group ahead. I had no worries about the guys behind me as they had dropped back.
As we started the last (bell) lap big Al made his move and it was show time for me. I gave a good effort and to my surprise I was able to get right on big Al's wheel. We stayed together as we entered turn 3 starting to pass the other riders. As we exited turn 4 we pulled past the others and pulled down to the pole line. I was able to stay on his wheel to finish 2nd.
I was very happy and tired. I had left it all on the track and I was out of breath. I thanked Al as we cooled down. It was a great ride and another great class.
PS: Here is a little more about the different types of bike racing:
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Point-a-Lap and Miss and Out
During Monday's class we learned the standing start. This was a real challenge as you had to start from zero and accelerate hard. Success requires the correct form, so the bike stays straight as you can focus your energy into the pedals. I went on line and found this YouTube video of Chris Hoy from England. This guy has the right form for sure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1AfJSrh1ME
Note how the bike is steady as he moves away from the stand. Like a subway leaving the station. Right on track.
I practiced this when pulling away from a stop in traffic during my commute. Arms stiff, back straight and pull up on the back pedal to keep the bike straight. It works! After a few practice trials I was much better. On my last try I was able to sprint up into the draft of a Jeep leaving a traffic light and ride the draft to 33 mph. Last week I could not have done the same thing.
Last night's class started with the usual paceline warm up. I got in a group of 4 of the more proficient riders and we worked very well together. When it was my turn to pull off I would head up the track and “coast” my legs for a bit then head down to join the line. The key is timing to hit the draft at the end of the line at the right moment so you don't have to speed up or slow down to join in. With just four proficient riders this worked a treat. We were fast, tight and efficient. Life is good. After a while the test of the class joined the line while I was moving my way up to the front. This was a bit of a surprise when I went to pull back down into the line there were another 5 riders and lots of big spaces. I was not able to rejoin until midway down the back straight. The longer line developed a bit of a surge as the riders were not consistently keeping up with the leader. This was a bit of a pain as you had to speed up and slow down as you went around the track.
The next exercise was the warm up sprints. These are 100m sprints from the wall in turn 2 performed in groups of 3 or 4. Sprinting as a group is not easy and I messed up the first two by pulling the trigger a bit late. I lead the group for the last one and I did very well getting a smooth and fast acceleration down the back hill. It is funny that sprinting warms up the muscles differently than the 3-4 miles of paceline work that we just did. I felt much more ready after this warm up.
The first drill was group flying 200m sprints. This was the same as the time trials, but we were doing it as a group and not keeping times. The plan was to ride the top easy for 3-4 laps then spread out and do the sprint from the 200m mark to the scratch line. That was the plan, but it turned into a fiasco as we did not coordinate well as to which lap we were going on and did not spread out properly. After several botched attempts we managed to organize our fecal material and did a couple of good ones where we had the right approach speed and spacing for the sprint.
When you hit the turn at 30+ mph it is a thrill. There is a little bump at the entrance to #3 that is caused by the seam in the concrete. Normally this is just a little bump, but during a sprint it feels like you are hitting a curb and it upsets the bike if you are not relaxed. Practice needed…
The first race was a point-a-lap. Scoring is simple: the winner of each lap gets a point. On the last lap the winner gets 3 points, second gets 2 and third gets 1. A point tie is broken by the better finisher on the last lap. Our race was 5 laps.
They explained the race as we were lining up on the wall so there was little time to develop a strategy. We rolled off and I positioned myself near the front. I missed the first 2 laps by 1-2 positions and the points were awarded to two of the other older riders. Big Al was boxed in. On the third lap big Al made his move and I was right along with him. He took the point and kept on rolling pulling us away from the pack. After the sprint I looked back and saw the pack had spread out. Big Al was in front, I was second and one of the other fast riders was in third, but away from the pack. I could not catch up to big Al and hope to beat him for a point so I pulled up in turn 1 and fell in behind rider #3.
I figured I could hang in his draft for the next 1.5 laps then pass him at the end. The only thing that would mess this up would be if the pack caught us. The plan worked to perfection! I stayed on his tail and he kept up the pace. I stayed real close and the pack did not close the gap. In turn 3 I accelerated toward him then moved up to pass in turn 4. I put the hammer down and passed him handily for 2 points. He also had two points, but I beat him at the finish so I got 2nd place. The coach commended me on my strategy and execution :-)
The last race was a miss and out to the end. That is the last person across the scratch line at each lap would be dropped from the race until there was only one person left. After messing up on the last miss and out I had a prepared strategy. Plan A was to be the devil and purposely be last heading into turn 3 then identify the hole and sprint to beat the last 1-2 riders to the scratch line. Plan B was to be in second place on each lap and defend it.
In the first lap I was third across the line. On the second lap big Al made his move and I hung right on his wheel. Plan B was in effect. When we crossed the scratch line I would move 12” up the track to make us a bit wider. We were challenged the first 1-2 laps but then we pulled away from the others and it was just us. Finally it was just me and big Al cranking around the track. The plan was to draft past him in turn 4 and then sprint to the win. That was the plan… I managed to pull out and overlap our wheels by 6” but I did not have enough steam to make the pass. Second was still a good show and I was very happy. I had both a good strategy and good power for both races.
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Miss and Out then Win and Out
Last night was a toasty 87°F at the Trexlertown track. Fortunately, I had preconditioned myself by riding to and from work in the 93°F Telford heat. I was ready to ride the concrete crater.
The pace line exercise goes better every week. We were working as a team this week, circulating from leader to leader w/o issue. I felt fairly efficient pulling off the front and joining up to the rear of the line. The only issue was different leaders had different paces. Still, we were much better than any of the other weeks. The warm up sprints went very well and I really nailed the last one, getting a straight run into the start of turn 3 with strong acceleration.
This week's drill was called “cone sprints”. The coach set up traffic cones at the start and finish of each turn dividing the track into four ~85m sections. The drill is simple, sprint between the cones in the corners then “float” along the straights. This is a 4 lap drill. The class of 8 breaks into two groups of 4 and my group goes first. I hammer the first two laps and realize this is work. I finish up my 4 laps and I am huffing and puffing, but I am happy that I gave it my maximum effort as the second group goes out and we stop and have drink.
We were all caught off guard when the coach said to saddle up and we will do the same drill for 5 laps. I gave it a good go and started off at about 95% effort. On lap 5 I was fairly well gassed and could only give 80-85%. We were all glad that drill was over… Then the coach said the next drill was 6 laps! I went out and got a great jump on the first sprint then settled down into a rhythm. I was very happy do be done. I was not as fast as my first laps, but nobody passed me during the drill.
The coach asked what we wanted to do next, drills or race. We all said race! Anything would beat the cone sprints.
The first race was a miss and out. We would drop one person each lap until 3 riders were left. The three riders would then have a free lap, then a one lap sprint to the end. I lined up right behind big Al at the boards. My plan was to just hang on his wheel and I would be second in short order. There was a little kink in the plan as some of the other riders dropped under us and pulled ahead. This put us out of the line above the others. I stayed behind big Al for the first lap or two then Al made his move to the front. He slipped into the lead which effectively picked me off his wheel.
I knew it was not wise to hang out in the breeze and I had to do something. I hung out for a lap then Al made a sprint to the line and opened up a little hole behind him. I squeezed into the space behind him. Ahhh, mission accomplished. I stayed there for the next couple of laps until there were just three of us. On the second to last lap I visualized passing Al in turn 4. Allow one bike length spacing, then sprint up to his wheel and ease out to pass while hammering hard then out sprint him to the line. I felt confident to give it a try.
On the next lap I executed the plan. I let a bike length develop between us while maintaining alignment as we enter turn 4. I then pour on the coal and to my surprise the gap closes. I start the pass just as I reach his rear wheel and we are about to exit the turn. I don't know how fast we were going, but it was way fast. Much faster than any of the practice sprints. This is when things got wonky and I got a bit of a wobble, and I lost my drive for a moment. I relaxed and moved out a bit to let things settle down. Once we were on the straight I pulled hard and started to make progress. At the line he still had me by a wheel. So close, but so far. It was a great race.
My mistake was not keeping my eyes focused down the track. That slight mistake probably cost me the win.
The next race was a win and out. This sounded weird and was difficult to understand the first time. After a bit it sunk in. It was a 9 lap race. The winner of the 3rd lap gets 3rd place and can leave the race. The winner of the 6th lap gets 2nd place and can leave the race. The winner of the 9th lap wins the overall race. Simple, eh?
Now comes the decision... I believe I am second fastest in the class, especially after the drills. However, I almost beat big Al and I think I know what I did wrong. What to do, what to do? I decide to go big, or go home.
The first three laps were a bit of a slow race as everyone was tired and nobody was really itching for third place. We rode around as a big lump about 4 abreast. Finally, about ½ way down the final straight someone makes a sprint and nobody challenges. The pace picks up a bit for the next two laps and a couple guys sprinted for 2nd. Big Al had a plan that he would start his sprint at this time, just be a little later to the line. This caught me off guard as I had to hammer to catch up.
Al pulled out and away from the group and I set off in pursuit. For the first lap I was catching up, but then I slowly ran out of gas (coal) and could only stay even. We were way out in front of the pack so there was nothing I could do. I watched him slowly increase his lead to about 1/5th of the track at the line. It was all for naught.
If I was smarter I would have anticipated his sprint and been sure to get on his wheel. Plan B would be to try and organize a group to attack in mass with 3-4 of us sharing the effort to catch up. I think I would have had to find some friends before the race to make this work.
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Scratch, 200m, Miss and out, Snowball and Scratch again... Whew!
It was the best night on the track so far. We raced a lot.
We started out with our normal paceline. This time was a bit of a twist as one of the coaches joined us. The coach worked the line like the rest of us and told us to stay close and keep an even pace. The coaching seemed to improve the quality of the line.
After warming up they had us roll right into a 6 lap scratch race with the coach. The last lap of the paceline turned into the first lap of the race. After 1/2 lap big Al and the coach took off. I decided that I did not need to try and swim in the deep end of the pool and let them go. (The coach races on Friday nights, has many national awards and I am sure could wipe the track with big Al or any other student.)
I did what I needed to do to stay in the front pack as the rest of the racers sorted things out. I tucked into 3rd place with about 3 laps to go. I just hung there until turn 4 and I pulled right up on
his tail and carried my momentum past him down the home straight and took 3rd by a length.
The next trial was the flying 200m qualifier. I had been practicing slow speed sprints on my commute and I was strong at accelerating. I had high hopes that I could crush my former time. The starting order was determined by when we signed up for the course. I was late to sign up, so I was 8 of 10 to be pushed off.
I went right to the top of the track for my warm up lap which flew by. I picked it up in ernest on the front straight and poured on the coal heading up the hill into turn 1. Toward the end of turn 2 I rose out of the saddle and that is where things turned to poop. I had practiced grunting away from a stop, not trying to reach top speed at full cadence out of the saddle.
The bike wobbled the moment I stood up and my acceleration stopped. I tried to push, but things did not get better. I sat back down just before the starting line and decided to sit this one out. I had a smooth line as I swept down the back straight. I maintained my smoothness around the turn and kept it on the boil down to the scratch line.
The result 15.3s = 47.06 km/h = 29.24 mi/hr. This was better than my first try of 15.45s, but not what I was hoping for. I had practiced the wrong skill. After the class finished the coach demonstrated the proper for the 200m. He popped out of the saddle in the middle of turn 1 and hauled ass down the hill and flew around the turn and across the line. His time was 12.5s =35.79 mi/hr. My time was 3rd amongst the students.
The next race was a miss and out for the full 10 person class. The race would be to the end, instead of holding a sprint for the last 3 riders. This was a hard fought race and we were 4-5 wide at the line for every lap. I stayed up in the front trying to pick someone fast to stay behind. Big Al was not in the front. This race was much tougher than the others.
I found my self in the lead after one of the sprints and I pulled up the track to get back in the draft. The problem with this is the others are not too keen to let you back in. The first time I got back in the draft near the back.
The next time I kinda muscled my way into line once with a strategic wiggle to intimidate the person below. He was none too happy, but I got my spot. I kept making sure I was in the top 3 when we crossed the line.
With 4 riders I was second and big Al got boxed out at the line. The coach called "Al, your out.". It was a sign from God. I looked back and saw that he was indeed out and was heading for the apron. The guy I was behind was the guy I out sprinted in the scratch race so I was feeling good. At the next sprint to the line the #3 guy was way back. It turned out that the last sprint was the last he had in him. Now it was just the two of us.
At this point I was confident the race was mine to loose. I stayed right on his wheel down the back straight and relaxed a bit to let one bike length space develop in turn 3. I then poured on a bit of coal and motored past him along the front straight. I won by 1-2 lengths!
I won a race against the full field!
After a short break we were back at the wall for a 6 lap snowball points race. With this race the points build until the end. One point for winning the first lap, two points for the second and so on until the last lap where they award 6 points for first and 2 points for second and 1 point for 3rd.
There were about 4 of us in the front for the fist points lap. The guy on the inside got the point and big Al took off. I wanted to catch him, but he was too far ahead. I tried to solicit help, but there was no takers. For two laps I tried to coax one of my fellow riders to work with me to attack, but no luck.
The field had spread out so I went into 3rd. Big Al moved way up and was looking at lapping the back of the field. There is no way I would have had the steam to get him. I just hung out and sprinted for 2nd at the end.
The last race was a 6-lap scratch race. I could not get onto big Al's wheel when he made his sprint, so I let him go ahead. I worked my way into 3rd and hung there for 4 laps. When I tried to pull out for the pass my call to the engine room was not answered. I pulled alongside, but he had me by a wheel at the line. I had raced enough.
What a night. All podium finishes and a Win!
Next Monday will be my last class in this session. I will then be allowed to compete during the Friday night professional races in an exhibition race on August 23rd.
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Last dance, no partners
The weather was iffy all day, but the storm cell that visited Allentown looked like it passed through. I sprint home from work and check the velodrome's website and there is no notice of cancellation. We are on! I pull the pedals off my bike and throw my helmet in my backpack. Off the to the track.
I get up there only to find they had cancelled due to the impending rain. They changed the website about 10 minutes after I had left. So I hung out and reflected about the class and discussed upcoming junior national races to be held in Trexlertown with the bike mechanic and the class coordinator. Some of the visiting junior racers were taking advantage of the cancelled class to practice on the track. then the coordinator said that we were welcome to grab one of the school bikes and run around the track as long as we stayed out of the way.
I was very disappointed that we would not have class, so they did not have to ask me twice to get me moving. I grabbed a bike and screwed on my pedals. I told the team coach that I was going out on the track and that I would stay out of their way.
It was nice to be on the track and I stayed up above the stayer's line while my legs warmed up. I always find warming up a strange task. You start riding and the track feels steep and the bike feels very slow. After about 5 laps the legs feel more lively and the bike has started to roll along a little better. After 10 laps to becomes easy to push up the speed, and after 15 the bike feels willing to move out and do business.
When I was warming up one of the junior teams were practising a 4 man team sprint. This a a 1 km event (3 laps). They would start 4 abreast from a hold and form a line as they got into the first turn. After the first lap the leader would peal off and join the rear. Everyone would take a turn at the front then for the finish they would form a diamond formation so the team would be drafting, but be as short as possible for the finish. These guys were really flying.
On one of the starts the lead out rider was exceptionally strong and pulled away from the team. This was bad and the coach yelled at them to stop. He was pissed that they could not form up properly.
Between the team sprints the track was mine. I used the time to practice my own sprints. Last time I had trouble sprinting out of the saddle and I figured I could improve. I found that the bike got really unstable if I came out of the saddle at speed. I learned that I did much better when I got out of the saddle and accelerated from a slower speed while going up the hill into turn 1. This let me establish a stable position and focus on spinning the pedals. Using this technique I could establish a strong acceleration and I could drop down into the saddle at the top of the hill and keep pouring on the power.
Heading down the back straight hill was easy. Things get tricky at when you enter the turn at full speed. I tend to tense up which causes the bike to wobble. Without the pressure of a competitor or having a clock on me I could focus on my form. Each try the bike would wobble after entering the turn and I would consciously relax, arch my back and look up the track. Each time the bike would settle down and I would be able to pull around the corner. I worked on getting relaxed earlier and earlier in the corner. Too bad nobody had a clock on me.
Then the rains came... I came off the track and put the bike away. I have signed up for the next session which takes place over the next 4 weeks. (Spots are still open, hint, hint.)
On Friday August 23rd they open a spot up in the professional race program for a 6 lap scratch race for our development class. I am planning on taking part. It should be great fun to ride under the lights with the music blaring and the crowd cheering us on.
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A Second First Time
As promised I signed up for the second session of the adult basic class at the Velodrome.
We have a new coach, at least for the first week as John and Cameron compete for the national championship. Her name is, Kim Geist. She is a Friday night regular and former national champion. She has a little different coaching style then the guys. After each session on the track she asks for our reflections on the experience. Very interesting.
There were two other returning riders experienced Al and big Al. Big al got a new bike (61cm frame) as he plans on competing on Saturdays. the rest were new faces. All younger than before. The median age dropped about 10 years and some of these guys look serious in their onesies. What have I gotten myself into?
For a bunch of new guys we had a great pace line warm up. We had 10 slow laps above the stayer's line then 10 faster ones in the sprinter's lane. We paired off and did 2 warm up sprints. These went poorly as the first sprint was blocked by another rider and the second I got my shorts stuck on the front of the seat.
We broke into two groups; first timers and those who had been on the track. I moved into the experienced group with my head held high.
The next drill was Team pursuit Me, big Al and some skinny kid in a onesie that probably has not seen his 30th birthday made up our team. For this exercise the two teams would circulate the track above the stayer's line on opposite sides of the track. On the coach's whistle we would drop down as a team and form a fast paceline with 1/2 track pulls. We do this for 6 laps.
I expected big Al to take the lead, but he left that honor to me. I circulated slowly to establish the 1/2 track separation with the other trio. The whistle blew and I dropped down and sprinted the /34 of a lap to the next turn. I was moving along when I pulled up to let the next guy go.
Here is where I messed up as I went too high and too slow on the exchange and I let the other guys got away from me big time. I had at least a 4 bike gap to fill. To make matters worse I set the bar high with my sprint and these guys were hauling. I knew I had little time to catch up so I poured on the coal and closed the gap. This took 3/4 lap and I had little rest to before beginning my pull again.
I focused on being fast and smooth in the front and I saw that we were closing big time on the other group. This time when I moved off the point I went up high and went right back down. This time I nailed the landing ending up right on the wheel of the guy in the back. Nirvana! I hit the draft off the other guy's wheel and it was like coasting.
On the next lap we caught the other guys and we made an awkward pass as both teams were making the exchange in the turn at the same time. Once we were all passed the other group we reformed and kept on the march. We were a well oiled team at this point and things went smooth. My exchanges were smooth and efficient. The coach complimented us on the good work.
This is when the two mac-pacers called out from turn 4. (Who was there?) It is great to have fans.
The rest of the class was spent watching the other group ride a paceline, then we went out for a full group paceline to the end of the class. I was really hoping for a race, but the coach did not turn us loose :-(
This Friday 8/2 is the Tandemonium races. I plan to be there to see these racing tandems speed around the track.
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Still No Racing :-(
Tonight was a glorious night for riding. It was about 77°F and low humidity. I was looking forward to seeing how I would stand up to the young bucks in this sessions class.
We started out with a long 30 lap paceline that gradually built up speed. The group gelled fairly well after the 3rd to 4th lap and we were fairly efficient. The coach told us to go fast on the last 10 laps and this was fun.
Next was the warm up sprints in pairs. The young guy that was my partner last week asked to ride with me again. He said he found the tips I gave him last time useful. We chatted a bit between sprints. Turns out he is a serious inline speed skater and wanted to ride the track as a way of cross training. He had been out the the olympic training center in Colorado for speed skating. Hmmm, I am swimming in the deep end of the pool for sure.
The sprints went well for me and my partner as we had a clear track for each pull. I got into position for the sprint and felt I had good acceleration down the straight. We even got in a few extra sprints much to the coach's chagrin. The sprints did not go well for one of the other riders as his shoe came out of the pedal and he went down during the sprint. He was OK, but it tore the hell out of his onesie.
The next drill was to ride the track as a oval. The goal was to stay low on the straights, then go straight to the wall on the turns. I am guessing the goal was to have us experience the speed up and slow down as we go up and down the track. This can be a bit of an eye opener on a fixed gear bike.
The final drill was a long game of follow the leader. The leader of the paceline was told they had cart blanche to ride any line on the track for two laps, then they would go to the back of the pack. This was interesting to try and be smooth in the back of the pack as the pack zigged and zagged and speed up and slowed down. I found it made a huge difference to look up at the front of the pack to anticipate what I would have to do.
This drill gave me an appreciation to what it could be like to do a match sprint. I can see how the person who makes the jump has an advantage as they could be very hard to catch.
We finished up with a 10 lap cool down paceline. This is quite a difference to the last class where we would finish up with a 6 lap race. I am looking forward to having Jonathan Chambers and Cameron Reider back as coaches.
I can't wait for Monday :-)
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This week our original coach returned. I was psyched as he devotes 1/2 the class to racing!
The paceline went well and everyone worked and played well together. The only issue was what everyone thought the "pace" should be. Some were faster than others, but everyone knew what to do.
We went back out for warm up jump sprints. I gave my first sprint a good effort and got out of the seat and accelerated about 1/2 of the way down the straight out of the saddle, made a smooth transition into the saddle and pulled smoothly to the 100m line. I was feeling good when Mr. Onesie pulled past me on the outside. I was barely a speedbump in his path :-/
The second jump went well, but lacked snap at the bottom. On the third jump Mr. Onesie pulled up on top of me in the turn and I found the afterburners and I was able to gain some of the ground back on the inside. He had me by 3" at the 100m line. I felt better that he did not just motor past me.
We discussed possible drills for the next exercise and I mentioned that I enjoyed the team pursuit drill that we did last week. The coaches discussed it for a minute and came up a solution that would involve the whole class, the Italian Pursuit.
At first I thought it was a keirin race using a Ducati as the Derny, but I was wrong. It turns out is is a twist on the team pursuit we did a few weeks ago. The class splits into two teams that contain both fast and slow riders. The teams line up 180° from each other on opposite straights.
On the whistle, the teams release from the wall and start racing as fast in possible while staying in line. After the first lap the lead rider pulls off and the rest of the team continues with the #2 rider in the lead. The #1 rider is done with the race. after the second lap the #2 rider pulls off and the #2 rider takes the lead for the team. This continues until the last rider crosses the line on the side of the track that you started on. The first team to finish wins.
I did not think about it at first, but the batting order for the team will make a huge difference on the outcome.
Italian Pursuit #1-
There were two women in Monday's class and to coaches told them to be the #1 rider for each team. I took the #2 spot and Mr. Onesie took #3. We had 2 more riders and we lined up on the back straight. Big Al was on the other team, which lined up on the front straight.
At the whistle we were off and made a clean getaway to intercept the sprinter's lane right at the entrance into turn 3. I had no trouble keeping up with the leader for the first lap. When she pulled off I pulled hard and managed a fairly good lap. Mr. Onesie really hit it hard and had a fast lap. Turns out this was a problem as our #4 rider had nothing in the tank and he just pulled off w/o taking the lead. Our #5 rider had to do two laps alone and the other team beat us by a mile.
lesson learned. We need to be mindful of the batting order.
Italian Pursuit #2-
The coach used this as a learning experience and explained that we can't drop anyone in the group. They also let us give it another go. This time we switched sides and my team started on the front straight. This time I got a bit bossy and directed people into the lineup. The girl would lead off and the #4 rider would take the #2 position. I would take #4 and I would let Mr. Onesie anchor the team. I looked across and big Al was the anchor on the other team.
This race went much better as we had the order right. The girl gave a good effort and our new #2 had enough gas in the tank to lead a good lap and accelerate the group. The #3 guy continued the pull and we were really going fast when it was my turn. I gave 100% and was just about worn out when I pulled up.
I got to watch the rest of the race and our team was leading when I pulled off. Big Al has a lot of energy left and he gained some of our lead, but our team crossed the line first and we won!
The Italian pursuit was great fun as it allowed everyone to participate and contribute to the team's success.
6 lap scratch -
We ended the class with a 6-lap scratch race. We pushed off the wall and had a slow free lap. At the whistle the #4 guy on our first pursuit team pulled away and made a run for it. I am thinking that this guy only had 3 good laps in him for the pursuit, so he won't have 6 laps in him for this race. Let him go. Everyone else must have had the same thought. We passed him right on schedule, on lap 3.
I stayed in the pack and kept my eye on big Al. I figured he would make a break with 1-2 laps to go. I could see Al was itching to go and he let loose with 1.5 laps to go. I was right there and I got out of the saddle and poured on the coal. To my amazement I was able to accelerate with him and stay on his wheel. That is when things turned to pudding...
Once we were up to speed I went to sit down and my shorts got hooked on the front of the saddle. I tried to jump back up and I was going too fast. My leg stayed stuck. This distraction was enough to allow big Al to pull away. I fell to the back of our little pack and fell in behind Mr. Onesie with my leg still stuck.
I then noticed that the other two guys pulled away from us and I was able to keep up with Mr. Onesie. I felt good and pulled hard into his draft and started a pass entering turn 3 on the last lap. I cleared him as we hit the front straight and I beat him to the line by a bike length or two. My leg was still stuck on the saddle.
I think I finished 4th, but it felt great to pass the guy who bested me in the warm up sprints.
Can't wait for Wednesday.
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It was a good night at the velodrome. It was made even better since my friend let me borrow his GoPro camera for the rest of the session. We started with the usual paceline. I learned that my exchanges are probably the sharpest and really save energy. I always head straight up to the rail in turn 1 and coast up there until the last person is in sight. I then head down sharply and give a little effort to hit the end of the line as the group enters turn 2. Worst case I join the group at the middle of turn 2. I almost always land right in the sweet spot of the draft.
I watched some of the other exchanges and some hang on just a few feet outside of the group and hardly slow down. They end up joining the group on the end of turn 2 or even on the back straight. They are really burning a lot more energy during the exchange. No reason for me to tell them...
Warm-up Paceline Video:
In some places you can "hear" the draft as the wind noise drops when I am in the draft. I have included the initial roll off the wall and each of my transfers.
Mr. Onesie was in my group again when we did the warm up jumps. I can't believe how he can motor around me. I think he does this just using his legs (vs. some great strategy). He managed to pass me like I was a parking meter as we entered turn 3, which is 60m into the 100m effort. I was better on the next two jumps, but it is clear this guy can sprint from a start. I was good and warm after the jumps and I felt ready to roll.
The weather was iffy and the coach wanted to make sure we got some racing in. I was all for this plan. The first race was a Miss and Out to the end. After a brief description by the coach of how the race worked we were off. On the first lap I fell in behind big Al and Mr. Onesie and we pulled away from the pack for a few easy laps. Then a couple of guys came up along side and made a run for the line. I managed to stay in, but barely. Note to self; don't get comfortable, don't get caught down low.
The next lap I was able to pull up and insure there was a guy behind me at the line. Things were picking up, but I felt like I had lots of leg left to give. I gave a hard pull on the next lap and blew past the pack at the line. I pulled up track to allow myself to pull back in when I noticed big Al making a break for it. I traded my potential energy for some speed and hopped right on his wheel. It was the Al and Joe show from this point on. We dropped the rest of the pack but I could not pass Al. He won, I got second.
Miss and Out Race Video:
This is probably the most exciting race as there is some close side by side action that shows on the camera.
The next drill was flying 500m sprints, which ia about 1.5 laps around the track. We broke up into two groups of four and they ran just like the warm up jumps except we kept up the sprint for a lap and a half. I lead the first group and I did OK, but not great. The coach told me that I started the group too slow and jumped too hard. I should have started building speed sooner.
Flying 500m Sprint #1 Video
You can really feel the speed as you enter turn 3.
The next time Mr. Onesie took the lead and I was second. He had a modest speed leading up to the sprint, then headed off 3/4 throttle and took a bit of a curvy path to turn 3. Around the middle of the turn I start to catch up and I am thinking about passing him when big Al comes barrelling around us and Mr. Onesie kicks it into gear and picks up big Al's wheel and they motor off into the distance.
Flying 500m Sprint #2 Video
The next race was an unknown distance race. This race is just as it sounds. You all start off and start racing, not knowing how many laps there are to go. The coach then blows the whistle signalling the last lap. Hopefully, you are in a good position to make a sprint for the win when the whistle blows. You don't know when it will blow.
For the first lap we feel each other out and I hung out near the front. In the beginning of lap 2 big Al makes a jump and follow. Then as quickly as he jumped, he backed off and went to the wall. I ended up leading the lap at a fairly fast pace. I relinquish the lead and head up to the wall and big Al takes over. I try to fall in and find no room at the inn. There is a bit of cat and mouse and I find myself in a very comfortable 2nd to someone that I believe to have less gas than I do. This lasts for 2 laps.
As we start lap 6 big Al jumps and I jump with him. I match his speed, but can't make it to his wheel. In lap 7 Mr. Onesie pulls along side of me, but can't seal the deal and falls back. I keep cranking away and I am going fast, but can't catch big Al. He is about 5 bikes away from me. On the 8th lap the whistle blows and I give it hell. Alas it is not enough and big Al increases the gap and takes the win. I take second again.
Unknown Distance Race Video
There was some close side by side here too as I went onto the blue band and got a little shaky at speed. Pay attention between 3:00 and 5:05 on the video.
After a very short break we headed up to the wall for a 500m scratch race to end the night. This will be quite a test for me as the kids are great in the sprint. The race is short and sweet. We push off the wall and get the whistle in turn 2. Away we go!
Big Al takes off and I hit it too. I made a little mistake as I let myself settle to the bottom of the track before the whistle. I pay for this now. I am in second as Mr. Onesie pulls around me in turn 3 to fall into 2nd on the front straight. Another rider starts to challenge me for 3rd on the outside, but he can't sustain. I am right on Mr. Onesie's tail as we go around turns 1 and 2. I formulate a plan to draft past him on the exit of turn 4.
For some reason he starts to loose steam as we enter the back straight and I start to pull up on him on the back straight. He sees me as we enter turn 3 and hits it harder. I continue to pull up on him, but can't get it done by the line. I finish 3rd.
I re-play the race in my mind (and video) and I lost 2nd on the back straight when he slowed up. If I had slowed too I could have retained the element of surprise and I am confident my plan would have worked. Oh well, live and learn.
500m Scratch video
You can see the moment I loose my chance at 2nd place.
After the racing some of the guys were grousing about the short 81" gears on the school bikes. Some were confused about what we meant by "inches" of gear. The coach took one of the school bikes and walked it over the measurement line. At the start of the line on of the crank was set to 6:00 and the bike was rolled ahead. The crank returned exactly to 6:00 at the 81" mark.
Big Al purchased a used track bike for this session. When he measured his bike it went past the 81" mark by a bit. Turns out he has 88" gears. This is not a huge advantage, but it sure helps.
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It was a glorious night at the track. The weather was perfect. The warm up paceline went well as we have come together as a group. In the video you can clearly hear the draft when I pull behind the rider in front of me.
Warmup Paceline Video:
After some warm-up 100m sprints the coach announces that we will do timed 200m sprints. One of my classmates asks me "what's that" and I give a careful explanation of the process. The coach overheard me and said I was right, and since I knew it so well he would let me go first.
I was very pleased with my effort. I picked it up well coming out of 4 and carried the speed up to the top of 1 when I got out of the saddle and spun hard until I just about got to the start line. I settled down into the saddle w/o catching my shorts then cut a smooth line through the turn with my head up. I relaxed my shoulders and remembered to breath as I hammered down the straight to the line. I even gave a tiny imitation of a thrust as I crossed the finish line.
Flying 200m Sprint Video
My time was 14.4s, which works out to exactly 50 km/hr ot 31.07 mph. This is almost 1s faster than my last attempt. Mr. Onesie got down to 13.0s, and a couple of other 'kids" got into the 13s. Still, I was very happy that I got into the 14s.
The next task was a miss and out race where we would go down to the final 3 and then have a 2 lap sprint to the finish. There is one girl in our class. She is quite fast, but she does not have enough steam to keep up with the guys. The coach decided to give her 1/2 a lap head start to make things fair. I thought this was a nice thing to do, but it did mean we lost our "free" lap and the race started when we dropped off the wall for the start.
I had to work like heck to stay in the race as it was very cut throat at every sprint and it was a stout field. I did not feel comfortable staying behind anyone for the sprint so I pulled wide and went it alone then pulled behind the crowd after the effort. The good news is I made it to the final three. The bad news is I had nothing left for the last two laps. I finished 3rd.
Miss and Out Video
Our next task was a 9 lap points race where there would be points on laps 3, 6 and 9. If I thought the miss and out race was tough, this one was brutal as we had to catch up to the girl to prevent her from getting all the points. We hit the gas right from the start and stayed on it. I did OK and I think I was in the top 3 for the points on the sprints, but I don't know where I finished. This was a very good workout.
Points race video
Our last task was a 6 lap scratch race. I was a bit tuckered out from the previous three efforts, but I was up for it. Since the girl had a head start I knew we could not wait to get going. I could not find a good partner to pick things up, so I decided to get things going myself at the start and I lead the pack as we exited turn 4 for the first time.
One of the "kids" sprinted past me and I was able to grab his wheel and keep up with him. We were the only two sprinting so we pulled away from the group. I told him that we needed to work together and he pulled up and exchanged with me. We worked together and we has at least a quarter lap on the pack of guys and we were closing in on the girl big time.
Just when things were going well the kid burned out and pulled up and slowed down. I could see on his face that he was done. I had nothing to loose, so I kept on the gas. I blew past the girl with two laps to go and I maintained the lead until the back straight on the last lap. That is when I got passed like I was a parking meter by one of the faster guys. A moment later Mr. onesie passed me at the end of the back straight. I gave it the last little bit and started to close the gap using the little bit I still had in my legs, but it was too little too late. I got 3rd.
6 Lap Scratch Video
Still, I was happy with the effort. After the race I had a nice chat with the kid that I had teamed up with. He had a good time too and he realized that we would have won if we had worked together for two more laps. Next time maybe we will do better.
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20 minute Death March
It was another great night at the track. The temperature was low and humidity non-existent. There was a small issue with the wind at the beginning of the class. The flags were standing straight on their poles. A couple of gusts hit the paceline as we exited turn 2 and blew us up the track a bit.
The paceline did well. This is our 6th session together as a group and the group is riding smoother and tighter. The exchanges are more consistent. I felt good with my three 100m warm up jumps, especially the last one where I really spun my legs well as I entered turn 3. I was ready to race.
I was ready to race, but perhaps not ready for the next event... The coach proposed a somewhat unique contest. The event would run for 20 minutes and was very simple: whoever had the most laps after 20 minutes would win. This was about 3-4 times longer than our typical race and would prove to be a real endurance challenge. The one girl would ride at a constant pace at the stayer's line. We were welcome to pull behind her at any time to take a break. We could ride the event as we wished, working together or taking breaks as required.
The event started as a paceline and we all took turns at the lead as the pace gradually picked up. I had discussed making an organized attack with my partner from last week and it seemed like a good way to make a go of it. After 3-4 laps I tried to implement my plan. I jumped from the back and started passing the pack. Unfortunately one of the stronger guys was leading and he was picking up the pace at the same time. When I got to the front he really hit it and I could not match so I abandoned ship and retreated.
Then I realized that the group could not keep up with the three riders that pulled away and I poured on more coal to make it a party of 4 in the front. I was successful and was able to join in for a few laps. When they made their exchange the #2 rider (big Al) kicked it into overdrive and I let a gap open up. I could not hold the position and the former leader was able to tuck in behind big Al and they started to pull away. I could not run with the big dogs. The former #3 rider could not keep the pace either and he fell behind me.
Soon I was running alone. I was pulling up on the main group and decided to keep trying to extend my lead on the group by keeping my pace up. I kept working alone for 5-6 long minutes when another rider caught up to me. He was a sight for sore legs. I pulled up and made an exchange with him as I suggested that we should work together. He did not say anything but seemed agreeable. After a lap and a half break I told him I was ready for a pull and I took the lead with fresher legs.
We worked together for about 8 minutes or so and it seemed we were well matched. We were able to put a couple of the other riders a lap down. Life was good. With about 5 minutes to go the two big dogs came past me just as I was taking my pull. This time I had something in my legs and I was able to catch the back of the express train. My friend could not hang on.
I worked with these guys for the last minutes of the race. I gave it my all during my 1 lap pull while they gave 2-3 lap pulls. I was really making time on the rest of the riders.
When the coach called out that there was two lapps to go and the two big dogs lit it up and pulled away. There was nothing I could do to keep up, but I did not give up and kept on cranking. As I entered the back straight I saw Mr. Onesie about 1/2 way down. I caught up with him just as we rounded turn 3 and I sat on his wheel for the last lap.
I was figuring that I would make a last lap pass in turn 4 when he decides to sprint as he started down the back straight. I found a little coal left in the corner of the bunker and poured it on to catch up to him in turn 3. I waited for a couple of seconds and hit the jets again to pull off a convincing pass on the front straight.
I had third place against the whole field either way, but it felt extra special putting one more rider behind me at the finish.
20 Minute Survival Race Video
I edited and captioned this video so it is much less than 20 minutes and the high points in the race are pointed out.
After a very short break the coach called us up for a 9 lap points race. I did my best for this race and my heart was in it, but my legs were not. I had nothing for the sprints and I was 5th
9 Lap points race Video
The very last race was a 6 lap scratch race. I was feeling better, but I was far from fresh. I did OK, but I only got 4th. I was catching up on Mr. Onesie at the end, but it was too little too late.
6 lap scratch race video
I had a great experience after the racing when i stopped at the local Subway for my usual 6" veggie sub with a free cookie. I struck up a conversation with one of the young workers there about riding (I was still in my riding gear.) This guy was about 18 and he had been in the Bicycle Racing league (BRL) until he was 16. The BRL is the youth development racing at the track. We started talking about racing tactics, strategies and experiences. After our little tire kicking session he closed with "It is always nice to talk with a fellow racer." This made my night.
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Prior to starting warm ups we were getting ready to hit the track and I found that big Al had taken the plunge and raced last Saturday in the rookies and masters series. This is where you start at the track.
Everyone starts in Category 5 and if they are good enough they move up to category 4, then 3, 2 and 1. Category 1 is for the olympians and pros. Saturday is for the cat 4 and 5 racers. Tuesday night is for intermediate riders. Friday is for cat 1 and 2 riders. Big Al was able to win a couple of races and took the omnium win for Category 5. The omnium is based on points awarded for each race during the night. This is a very impressive debut.
Our warm up went well. The warm up process takes 20 minutes. We started high and slow, then picked up the pace as time went on. With about 5 minutes to go I lead the line down to the sprinter's lane and kick it up another notch. Every new leader took the group to a higher speed. On the final lap big Al gave us all a good pull to finish at a sprint.
Warm up paceline video:
I edited out all of the non-exchange laps.
After the paceline we did the warm up sprints. As usual I felt better with each one. I have learned that these 100m jumps are essential to warming up the old legs.
Our first drill was the cone sprints. These are quite challenging. The drill is to sprint between the cones that were set at the beginning and end of each straight. We are to relax and let the bike "coast" during the straights. After 1-2 laps the corners get longer and the straights get shorter. We did 3 sets of 5 laps with a rest in between efforts.
This is a video of the second set:
You can really hear the chain "sing" when I start my sprint in the begining of each turn.
After the intense workout of the cone sprints the coach called us to the wall for a 6 lap scratch. I expected the race to start off slow. No way, as everyone got moving right away. Big Al took off right from the wall and I tried to match him, but there was a big gap. Then we start a little cat and mouse where he pulls up and waits for me. I pull up too (along with 2-3 other riders on my tail).
The other big dog breaks the tension and makes a run for it on the bottom. I try and get on his wheel but I have someone blocking on the bottom. It takes a while to get on his wheel and big Al is right there on top of me. (@1:30 you can see it on the video). Then out of the blue one of the kids comes over the top and gives big Al a hand to sprint him down the front straight. The kid only has 1/2 a lap in him, but this suits big Al just fine as he has 30-40 meters on us now with 2 laps to go. Now I get the lead...
I pull hard for a bit then pull up only to find there are three guys behind me on my wheel. I had no choice, but to join the back of the line. Things get worse for me when the two guys in the front pick it up and the rider in front of me could not keep up. He pulls up after seeing he could not make it and I was left eating the wind again :-(
(I retrospect I should have tried to pass him the moment I saw him falling off the wheel of the guy in front. It was a split second decision that I should have made.)
I had no choice but to go alone. I see Mr. Onesie start to fall back, but he is much too far ahead to catch. I am heading for the line when I hear some noise behind me. Someone wanted my spot! I kick it up to defend my 4th place at the line.
Scratch race video:
At 1:30 there is some very close racing. I am only inches away from the other guys. On the last lap I almost get passed buy the guy in the green shirt.
The last race was a miss and out until the end with 9 starting. The race started fairly spread out and I was near the front with the faster guys. This worked well for a couple of laps until I could hear the chains singing behind me coming to the line. I jumped on it and saved my skin. I had a bit of a sprint to drop the 4th guy, which landed me in the sweet spot if riding on the wheel of #2. I set myself up for a slingshot pass on the last turn. I accelerate into the draft then pull out and start to pass him. He hits the gas and the race it on. I fall short by about 1/2 a wheel at the line.
The other guy is stronger than me, but I think I could have gotten the position with better technique. Oh well.
Miss and Out video:
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Wednesday was another great day for riding. I figured that after doing the cone sprints on Monday my legs would be dead. That was not the case. My legs felt lively and strong. I managed to catch the light and traffic perfectly on my commute to work this morning and got a chance to practice a sprint. I nailed the form and timing perfectly and got up to 35mph from almost a standstill on a slight downgrade. (Much less than the back straight at the velodrome.) This was made better by the fact that one of my co-workers was behind me (in his car) and documented the 35 mph.
We had a nice warm up paceline. This was out 8th session and we worked like a fairly well oiled machine. We started above the stayer's line for the first 15 minutes, then I moved the line down to the sprinter's lane for the last 5 minutes. We gradually picked up the pace toward the end of the session. I had the good fortune to have the last turn at the front and I lit it up for the last lap. I really got moving and I felt strong.
Edited down to 4.7minutes.
The next drill was the warm up 100m jumps. My timing and position was good and I was able to get out of the saddle and accelerate well. I felt good for these too and while I was not as fast as the younger guys there was less of a gap at the end then before.
Warm up Jumps video:
Our first exercise was the flying 200m sprint. I had been "studying up" for this test and I felt confident. My previous time was 14.4s and I was hoping to better this even though the weather conditions were not quite as good.
I went off third and felt great on the warm up lap. I started to add the power coming down the hill on the front straight. I continued to pick up speed coming up the hill and when I got to the top of the turn I went to get out of the saddle and discovered I was going too fast to get in position. After a couple of quick tries to accelerate I sat down and did my best.
Even sitting I had strong acceleration as I approached the start line and I cut a strong and smooth line into and around the turn. I gave it my all on the straight and finished fast. My time was 14.3s, which was 0.1s better than before. (The fastest guys in the class gained 0.2s on their times.) My average speed was 31.3mph. I was happy with my time even with my screw up.
200m Sprint Video:
You can see the camera rock side to side when I try and stand up at the beginning.
After the sprints we did two team pursuit events. the goal was to pass the team in front of you. The class was split into teams, fast, medium and slow. I had the 4th fastest 200m time so I was in the medium team.
The track is 333m long. The starting spots were arranged to handicap the faster riders. The slow team lined up on the middle of the back straight. My team lined up a little more than 1/2 a track back, or about 180m. the fast team was just ahead of the slow team, or about 290m behind them.
On the whistle everyone rolled off the wall and formed a paceline with the team. I was in the back of our team. We worked fairly well together and we took 1/2 lap pulls which kept things exciting. We caught up with the slow team after about 5 laps.
This happened on my pull and I pulled hard to get past the other group. When I looked back I saw that I had dropped them. Not cool! I had to slow down and pick them up again, then fall to the back and wait for the pass. Right after we passed the first group the fast team passed us.
Team Pursuit #1
When I hang up above the other team is when I figure out that I had dropped my team.
The next time was the same except my team started with about a 190m handicap and I started in the lead. I curbed my enthusiasm this time and did not drop the group. We caught up with the slow group right as the fast group caught up with us.
Team Pursuit #2
The team pursuits were fun, but it was difficult to race and not give 100%. I did like working together to go faster as a team.
I am excited about the finals tonight. It will be something to race under the lights, with the fans, music and the announcer.
There are three classes that will race with me. The two evening classes, which I attended. Then there is the morning advanced class. These are the wild cards in my deck as I have never seen them. I know one guy is listed in the Masters and Rookies results from Saturday so he may be a fast guy. The good news is we will all be forced to race with 81" gears, which does level the field a bit.
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The Big Race August 23rd 2013
The big race day finally arrived and I get my chance to ride on the track in the big show. I arrive early and I am first in line. Technically I am second in line, but in a moment of chivalry I gave my spot up to the girl in our class. Registration was smooth and I got my race numbers. I hustled over to the bike room so I would have the pick of the litter.
They have two types of Fuji bikes in my size, old ones and new ones. I have ridden both and I like the newer style better. The new ones also have cm markings on the seat post so I can set it to the same height w/o measuring each time. Turns out that there is one with the seat already at my hight :-) I screw on the pedals, air up the tires and I am good to go.
I attach my numbers to my shirt I am race ready. I walk the bike over the bridge to the track and they show us our designated stalls. It was fun palling around with the other guys and girls in my classes. We were all nervous. There were a couple guys from the morning class there. Thy had taken the class for a couple of years. These guys were serious with shaved legs and their own bikes. Hmmmm.
The pros take the track first to warm up. After waiting around forever and significant confusion they finally let us out for warm ups. There are a lot of us. The Air Products development program is more than the adult classes that I took. It is also open to boys and girls from 5 to 16 years old, and its free. Kids from 11 and up get to participate in the race night. There are are a lot of them.
It was a bit intimidating entering the track with about 50 riders all going different speeds. I climb up the the stayer's line and focus on maintaining the right speed. Unfortunately I don't know what the "right" speed is. I don't want to go too fast and get tired, but not too slow and not warm up. I figure faster is better than slower.
One of my classmates picks up my wheel an announces his presence. We do one lap pacelines for a bit and I feel myself warming up. After a few minutes they announce that there is 5 more minutes. I figure I should do at least one warm up jump and we head up to the top of the track. A space opens up in traffic and we seize the opportunity and sprint down the track.
The sprint goes well but we are catching up on a kid that is going slowly in the sprinter's lane at the bottom of the track. (Track etiquette is that the sprinter's lane is just for hard efforts.) We back off and adjust out line up to pass. Just as my colleague was passing the kid he decides to move up track. They hit shoulder to shoulder and it was no contest as my colleague is 200+ lbs and I think this kid was south of 80 lbs. He went down like a bowling pin.
There was not much we could do except keep rolling. Some coaches came out to attend to him as the rest of the crowd kept warming up. I heard the coach say that "dude, you have to stop falling", so I figured he had done this before. He was OK and walked off the track.
In no time at all they closed practice. The total was 10 minutes and we usually take 20 or more. Now we all get to sit and wait for our race.
Luckily we were the 4th race out. We line up on the wall and the starter told us that we would get the gun in turn 2. I position myself behind one of the guys from the morning class. it is just a 5 lap race and will not be able to play my endurance card. I will have to get it right from the start.
We roll off and I stay high, behind the morning guys. We get the gun and we are racing. I know that the stands were full, the music was going and the announcer was talking, but all I could see was the other racers.
The speed picked up over the next two laps and I struggled to keep my place. We were three wide and riders were jockeying for position. On the third lap the two guys from the morning class made their move and I did not get in on it. I had to go around another guy and punch it to catch up. I did get clear and give a hard effort. As I humped down the back straight I heard the announcer say "there goes Joe Dille, 55 years young closing the gap".
My effort pays off and I catch up to the other guys. Here is where things turn to pudding. My plan was to hang on the wheel of these guys and take a breath so I could push on the last lap. Unfortunately, they saw me the wanted me to take the lead. They moved up the track and I slowed and moved too. Here was my mistake.
I did manage to position myself on their wheel, but they were now going slower. I could see by the shadows that the others were gaining on us and it was the last lap. As we re-accelerated we were caught by the other guys on the front straight and two of them got past me at the line. I finished 5th.
I returned to the pits and the rest of the guys in my class congratulated me for the effort and said it was fun to watch me close the gap. I got high fives and fist bumps and it was very cool to be there. I belonged.
I headed over the bridge to return my bike and meet up with Joey for dinner. He was proud of me and said I looked good. A couple of my co-workers showed up to cheer me on and that was great.
I was bummed. I think I could have done much better if I kept the heat on and passed the two guys from the morning class. I doubt I could have held them off for two laps, but the rest of the class would not have caught up to us. Oh well.
Perhaps I will be back next year.
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